Foraging: Is it worth it?

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Wed, May 21, 2014 - 9:59pm

Wild raspberries

Foraging can mean having fun while saving money. There are many things you can get for free, if you open your eyes to the possibilities.The opportunities are limited only by your climate and places where foraging is allowed. Just know your laws if it's public land, and ask for permission if it's private land. In the wild,  wear tick repellant, long sleeves & pants, and tuck our pants cuffs in your socks. Pro tip: try to avoid foraging along dog walks, and wash your haul (for obvious reasons.) I do not recommend foraging for mushrooms, since so many of them are poisonous. Never forage near the edge of a road, either, since gasoline additives may have been taken up into the plants, and don't forage down-slope from any place that is contaminated.

Fruit:  If you see a neglected fruit tree in someone's yard, see if they will let you have some. We got apples that way last year.I  suggest you offer something in return for the harvest. I've found that property owners get suspicious if you just offer to clean out their unwanted fruit. I've always offered to bring them back some of the jam, juice, canned goods or pies I got with my haul. Pies and jam - those seem to be the most popular. Favorite free scores?  Sea Beach plums on the north Atlantic coast, blackberrying in various locations, wild elderberries, wild blueberries, and knowing where the raspberries grow. We love our "Baptist" pears, too - every year we pull bushels of pears off a neglected tree in a local church parking lot, with their permission.

Nuts: One of our neighbors offers the world free black walnuts with a sign at the edge of his driveway. There's a hickory in the forest behind our house. We are actually encouraged to harvest pecans all over the ground at the family homestead nearby, and on the grounds of the church where we worship (which was built on the site of a pecan farm.) .

 Common Chickweed

Vegetables: Fiddle heads are wonderful, as are lamb's quarters. If there's a stand of bamboo near you you can harvest the shoots. I've harvested wild fennel near San Diego - the bulbs are fantastic in soups and stews. I consider cactus pears vegetables, too: wear gloves when picking them, and burn off the spines before cooking.  Watercress is great if you can find it, as is fresh dill. Sweet pea flowers, purple clover leaves & flowers, and honeysuckle flowers are great in salads, as are chickweed and dandelion greens. (False dandelions have hairs on their leaves, any roots, and can cause indigestion. True dandelions have one big tap root and no leaf hairs.) 

Firewood: We've found that if co-workers and neighbors know we will take their unwanted hardwood trees out for free, we can get all the free firewood we want. This requires a chainsaw, an axe, a trailer (since we don't have a truck), safety glasses and some sturdy gloves. Decline the free wood if the trees are near power lines or might fall on a house - it's not worth the risk. And learn how to prune off the branches safely.

There is a series of videos I recommend for identification purposes called "Eat the Weeds" on YouTube that will entertain you and open up a world of possibilities. Give it a try.

The website Forager's Harvest is also a good resource.



1 Comment

jgritter's picture
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 13 2011
Posts: 273
I think so


Thanks for the post.  It lead me to more related posts and fueled my imagination.  Last season I ate lambs quarters, pig weed and purslane from my garden and it looks like I'll have an abundance of lambs quarters again this year.  The pig weed is a mixed blessing as I had very difficult time keeping it under control last year.  I'm not sure what the season for cattails is but they are coming up well and I may have to go out and gather some tomorrow.  With the price of meat going up I'm also thinking of being much more proactive about raccoons and rabbits.

John G.

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